This week's Batman #44 might feel like it's in a very different style from recent months, as it features a different artist and addresses many of the real-world issues of today's society. But Batman scribe Scott Snyder wants readers to understand that the problems exposed in this week's issue are the core of his Jim Gordon story.
Drawn by Jock with an co-writer assist from Brian Azzarello, Batman #44 is the latest chapter in Snyder's introduction of Jim Gordon as a Batman who wears a mechanical suit and works in conjunction with the Gotham City police. But the issue takes place long before Jim donned his mech-suit — while Bruce Wayne was in the early stages of his time as Batman.
In our latest interview with Snyder (check out our pre-publication interview for more), we talked to the writer about why this issue made sense in the middle of the current arc, "Superheavy."
Newsarama: Scott, now that this issue is out, readers can see why you called it a "thesis" about the arc, but it also feels like a bit of a thesis about real life. You've described Mr. Bloom as a result of the cracks in the system of Gotham, but the problems you're exposing in this issue feel like cracks in our system.
Scott Snyder: This issue was conceived when the arc was conceived. And I called Jock about it, it was many, many months ago, saying that if I do this arc the right way, this issue is going to be the beating heart of it.
So it wasn't kind of a swerve where I wanted to do an origin of Mr. Bloom that was going to be kind of a villainous origin. Mr. Bloom, to me, is the extension of what happens when you lose faith in the people around you and the place you live in. And he's always been conceived that way.
When I talked to Jock all the way back when we were working on Wytches, I told him this was going to be an unconventional origin story. It's going to be something that's much more about the systemic, entrenched problems in Gotham, and Bruce facing off with them in a way that's humbling. And that is going to be the origin of our villain, because our villain is basically a reflection of the anger that people feel when they're let down by the things put in place to make them feel safe and make them feel like they can thrive in a place like Gotham.
And so that touches on everything from, I think, the "Black Lives Matter" movement, to the stratification or the giant gap growing between the rich and the poor in many cities like New York or Gotham, to political corruption, lobbying — all the things that are touched upon in this issue. Mr. Bloom says, see? You like to pretend that you're all in it together, and that it's this communal endeavor — a place like Gotham or any city: New York or Baltimore or Chicago – but that ultimately, we're all in it for ourselves. We're all selfish. We've lived this fantasy long enough. Come to the end of the alley and take what's going to make you live a happy life subjectively, you know? And forget about everything else.
Nrama: We talked before about how the problems with the system are very personal to Jim Gordon as Batman, because he puts his faith in the system. But having read the issue, I also see an undercurrent here about the "cracks" being core to why Batman himself exists. Am I reading that right?
Snyder: Yeah, well, I want to make everybody culpable in the issue. I mean, part of it is a statement about what I think Batman means today, versus what he meant maybe 20 years ago.
The stuff I grew up on, when New York was kind of falling apart, was extremely inspiring because Batman was about making sure you weren't afraid of the criminals on the street, and the quagmire and politics of the '80s — there was a whole feeling that nothing could be done, but Batman, in sort of Frank Miller's tenure, went out there and said, "I'm taking the city back. Follow me."
Nowadays, I feel like there are different fears and different sort of concerns. Some of those concerns are less about urban decay and more about larger, national, systemic problems that have to do with race and class.
And those kind of problems, Batman isn't going to solve. There's no way to do a Batman story where he solves the problem of relationships between communities, relationships between the police and communities. It's just too big.
But what Batman can mean in the face of fears that have arisen post-9/11 — terrorism and all the kind of stuff we address in "Zero Year," and violence and these kind of problems too that are in the news all the time — is a sense of bravery.
So this issue is largely about Batman learning that instead of scaring criminals back into the shadows and doing what he thinks he needs to prove to the city about catching someone or sort of beating someone back — which is the Batman I grew up with — what he needs to do is inspire bravery and fearlessness in the population.
He needs to be an upright symbol, a symbol of resistance, of rebellion, of strength and fearlessness as opposed to a symbol of fear for bad guys.
Nrama: You mentioned that you approached Jock about this issue, and it's striking how different this issue feels from what you've been doing so far with Greg. Yet I see what you're saying about it all being about the same thing.
Snyder: And when you get to issue #45, the story is going to be about the exact same things — it's just going to be the robot suit and all the out-of-control bombast and action and zaniness we've been doing.
But I hope what issue #44 indicates to people is that really, this story isn't just for fun. This villain is scary in a very deep, emotional and psychological way for me, as someone having grown up in New York.
And that what Gordon's fighting for is something very important.
So now I feel like we can go back to this sort of fun, strangeness of "Superheavy."
Nrama: And issue #45 gets back to the bombast?
Snyder: Yeah [laughs] — it's like, "and now, back to our regular scheduled program." Issue #45 is going to be out of control, Technicolor zaniness.